TSCA reform 2.0, aka, Safe Chemicals Act of 2011: Tastes great, less filling

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 was introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senator Frank Lautenberg and is co-sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Charles Schumer, and Barbara Boxer.

In the TSCA reform debate, some things haven’t changed from last year:  TSCA is just as badly in need of an overhaul, and consumers and the chemical industry’s customers have no more confidence in the safety of chemicals in use today than they did a year ago.  States, other countries and the marketplace all continue to act to advance modern chemical safety policies and practices.  We in the advocacy community are still waiting for the chemical industry to offer some of its own proposals for reform – though some individual companies and product associations have been more forthcoming.

In contrast, the 2011 version of the Safe Chemicals Act has changed in some important ways – and for the better.  It includes a number of improvements over last year’s version that would both boost health protections and ease implementation and workability.

[Updated 5-9-11:  Here’s a side-by-side comparing the 2011 version to the 2010 version of the Act.] 

I won’t go into a lot of detail here; for that, you can follow these links to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Familiesnews release and my side-by-side comparison of the 2011 vs. 2010 versions of the bill.  (A factsheet on the new bill will be posted here and on the coalition’s website later today.)

But here are a few highlights of the changes made in the new bill:

  • It establishes an orderly process that categorizes chemicals into high-, some- and low-concern classes and directs those chemicals along specific paths of action.
  • It requires expedited action be taken to reduce exposure to chemicals of high concern – those that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) to which people are exposed.
  • It calls for EPA to identify and prioritize chemicals requiring safety determinations, and tie the pace of that activity to EPA’s capacity to expeditiously make these needed determinations.
  • It clarifies that EPA would tailor minimum data requirements to different types or classes of chemicals, while still ensuring that basic safety information is provided in a timely manner for all chemicals.
  • It clarifies that States receiving confidential business information (CBI) must have an agreement in place to ensure the information is kept confidential.
  • It ensures that State governments have a right to take actions that are different from or in addition to those under TSCA, unless compliance with both the TSCA and the State requirement or standard is impossible.

I am hopeful that this bill, with its enhancements, will push the reset button on the stalled discussion over TSCA reform, and bring all of the parties to the table for an honest dialogue on how we can finally bring this vital law into the modern era.  It is in everyone’s interest – health advocates and industry alike – to restore market, consumer and public confidence in the safety of chemicals.

So here’s a toast to moving TSCA reform forward in this Congress.

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